If children are engaged in science lessons, their learning is likely to be better and, in the long term, careers in science and technology will remain open. Given that attitudes can develop early and be difficult to change, it is important for teachers of younger children to know how to foster engagement in science. This study identified what a cohort of 79 pre-service teachers in England considered to be engaging elementary science lessons and compared their notions with teacher behaviours known to be conducive to engagement. First, all brought beliefs about how to engage children in science lessons to their training. They tended to favour children’s hands-on activity as an effective means of fostering attentive participation in learning, although many had additional ideas. Nevertheless, the means and ends of their ‘pedagogies of engagement’ tended to be simple and narrow. Trainers need to ensure that notions of engagement are wide enough to cope with a variety of teaching situations, as when hands-on experience is not feasible, effective or appropriate. At the same time, teachers will need to recognise that one approach may not suit all learners. Without this, there is the risk that they will lack the skills to engage children in science. Nevertheless, these beliefs could offer a useful starting point for trainers who wish to widen pre-service teachers’ conceptions of engagement and increase their repertoire of teaching behaviours
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